The 2GB Question & The Test

Before diving into our test results, I wanted to spend a moment mulling over NVIDIA’s choice for the default memory configuration on GTX 770. Due to the use of a 256bit bus on GK104, NVIDIA limits their practical memory choices to either 2GB of RAM or 4GB. A year ago this was fine even if it wasn’t as large as AMD’s 3GB memory pool, but that was after all a year ago.

Not unlike where we are with 1GB/2GB on mainstream ($150+) cards, we’re at a similar precipice with these enthusiast class cards. Having 2GB of RAM doesn’t impose any real problems today, but I’m left to wonder for how much longer that’s going to be true. The wildcard in all of this will be the next-generation consoles, each of which packs 8GB of RAM, which is quite a lot of RAM for video operations even after everything else is accounted for. With most PC games being ports of console games, there’s a decent risk of 2GB cards being undersized when used with high resolutions and the highest quality art assets. The worst case scenario is only that these highest quality assets may not be usable at playable performance, but considering the high performance of every other aspect of GTX 770 that would be a distinct and unfortunate bottleneck.

The solution for better or worse is doubling the GTX 770 to 4GB. GTX 770 is capable of housing 4GB, and NVIDIA’s partners will be selling 4GB cards in the near future, so 4GB cards will at least be an option. The price premium for 4GB of RAM looks to be around $20-$30, and I expect that will come down some as 4Gb chips start to replace 2Gb chips. 4GB would certainly make the GTX 770 future-proof in that respect, and I suspect it’s a good idea for anyone on a long upgrade cycle, but as always this is a bit of a gamble.

Though I can’t help but feel NVIDIA could have simply sidestepped the whole issue by making 4GB the default, rather than an optional upgrade. As it stands 2GB feels shortsighted, and for a $400 card, a bit small. Given the low cost of additional RAM, a 4GB baseline likely would have been bearable.

The Test

For today’s launch article we’re using NVIDIA’s 320.18 drivers for the GTX 780 and GTX 770, , and AMD’s Catalyst 13.5b2 drivers for all AMD cards.

CPU: Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.3GHz
Motherboard: EVGA X79 SLI
Power Supply: Antec True Power Quattro 1200
Hard Disk: Samsung 470 (256GB)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1867 4 x 4GB (8-10-9-26)
Case: Thermaltake Spedo Advance
Monitor: Samsung 305T
Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
AMD Radeon HD 7990
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 320.14
NVIDIA ForceWare 320.18
AMD Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2
OS: Windows 8 Pro
Meet The GeForce GTX 770 DiRT: Showdown


View All Comments

  • khanov - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link


    You failed again.
  • khanov - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Sorry dude, that wasn't aimed at you. Anand your comments system has a mind of its own.
    If I reply to xyz I sort of expect my reply to be below xyz's comment and not inserted randomly in to the comments list.
  • chizow - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Once again, a year late, but still a nice card. The updated cooler and higher memory clocks are impressive, but the max Boost clock was achievable on "FTW" type binned GTX 680s in the past.

    I guess this is Nvidia's "Gigahertz Edition", basically an overclocked SKU to bring parity in the performance midrange market.
  • Homeles - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    How in the world is this card a year late? Nvidia was still winning at this time, one year ago. Now they have not one, not two, but three single GPU cards that are on parity or are faster than the 7970 GE. Nvidia is in a far better position than they were with their GTX 500 series. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Full GK104 should've been GTX 670 and below from the outset, as Nvidia initially planned. That's why it's a year late, at this price point anyways.

    Also, AMD reached parity with Nvidia's GTX 680 last year with the 7970GE launch in June/July, which then distanced itself by 5-10% with the Never Settle Drivers in Sept/Oct last year.

    Now that the GTX 770 has launched and is ~10% faster than the 680, it again, reaches parity with the 7970GE.
  • JPForums - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    I thought the 104/114 series was historically reserved for the x60, while the 100/110 series was meant for the x70/x80 chips. Thus this new highend GK104 model should have been a 760Ti. GK110 should have maxed out at the 780 and the 770 should have been the paired down model. If they really had to have a Titan, it should have been a DPFP uncapped 780 (so they got that almost right).
    Of course the prices should have been the usual highend price points and not the massive price jumps they are currently pushing. Sure you can justify the price with the current performance relative to the previous generation, but if we always did that, the high end cards would get perpetually more expensive as the performance of each new generation of cards would justify a price hike over the previous generation. In reality, these prices are the unfortunate result of a lack of competition. Of course not all companies handle lack of competition the same way. nVidia has shown that, when uncontested, they will jack introductory prices into the stratosphere (8800 Ultra - $800-1000, $650 - GTX280, Titan/GTX780 - $1000/$650). Under normal competitive conditions, the top single GPU card from either nVidia or AMD/ATi of each generation comes in at $500. In similarly uncontested situations AMD/ATi has proven to be much less abusive to their customers (7970 - $550, 5870 - $400). Granted the relatively low price of the Dual GPU GTX295 probably kept the 5870s price in check until the GTX400 series launched, but at that point there was a significant difference in stability between single and dual GPU cards. Now I must mention, lest anyone gets the wrong idea, that AMD/ATi was probably only taking this route because marketshare/mindshare was more important to them than profit margins. Nonetheless, the facts remain.
  • chizow - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    I agree with virtually everything you said, although I never really had a problem with Nvidia jumping GK104 up a SKU to the x70 range. The performance was certainly there especially relative to last-gen performance and full GK104 also beat AMD's best offering at the time.

    The problem I had was Nvidia's decision to turn this 2nd tier ASIC into their flagship and subsequently, hold off on launching their true flagship ASIC a full year AND charge $1000 (and later, $650) for it.

    All events predicated on the fact AMD launched 7970 at flagship prices when it really didn't deserve the asking price. Tahiti launch set the stage for Nvidia to not only undercut AMD pricing but to beat them in performance as well with only their 2nd tier chip.
  • JPForums - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    True, the 7970 could definitely be considered overpriced when it launched, but it was the undisputed performance champ until nVidia finally launched the GTX680 to bring back competition. Though, this begs the question, was the 7970 really this underperforming, or was the GK104 simply larger and faster (relatively speaking) than midrange chips in the past. Given that the GK104 die size is smaller than the GTS250, GTX460, GTX555 die sizes, I'd say larger is out. That said, they removed a lot of compute resources to get the gaming performance they were targeting, so faster might hold some weight.

    The 7000 series sudden proficiency in compute combined with the equally sudden removal of compute focus in the GTX600 series meant the 7970 would need to be far larger to maintain equivalent performance. Given the fact that Tahiti XT (352mm) was much closer to the size of GK104 (294mm) than GK110 (561mm), the 7970 should probably be considered a mid-weight. That is to say I can conclude that Tahiti XT was under performing (in games) AND GK104 was an overachiever. So the question becomes, is compute capabilities important enough to sacrifice gaming performance that a year ago likely would have clocked in closer to the GTX780 (GTX775 class?) for compute performance that in many cases exceeds Titan, but gaming performance roughly on par with a GTX680?
  • JlHADJOE - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    IMO AMD's initial, higher price on the 7970 was justified. People forget that it was a much bigger chip than the 6970, with a 384-bit bus instead of 256. Any 384-bit part is effectively big, IMO. Same size as the 580, and now the Titan and 780.

    The fault here IMO goes right back to AMD's marketing division. If they hadn't stupidly went from 5870 to 6970, then people might have noticed that Tahiti was in fact a bigger part than its two immediate predecessors, and properly deserving of the 7900-series naming.
  • EJS1980 - Thursday, May 30, 2013 - link

    Pretty much this /I\

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